So by now you’ve heard the rumblings both from the NBA and various media outlets that the league’s grand plan to get going again will almost assuredly happen in a bubble community built within the expanse of Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Plenty more has come out since that news was confirmed on the weekend, but very little else is anything more than a guess at this point.
What we know for sure is there is a consensus from the league, the players and ownership that a restart of the season or at the very least a playoff will happen.
The risks have been weighed against the reward and the consensus is whatever the risks, they are worth taking.
Commissioner Adam Silver will do his utmost to make things as safe as possible for everyone taking part, but not even the all-powerful Silver can pretend to be 100% certain how this ends up.
He and the league are prepared for the eventuality that a player or staff member within the bubble tests positive for the COVID-19 virus. That individual would go into immediate quarantine. But there are no guarantees the issue ends with just one positive test, which could lead to countless others.
Again no one knows for certain but with testing and tracking the league is hoping to confine any positive test to as few additional positives as possible.
The NBA isn’t the guinea pig here. Leagues in other parts of the world are already underway and by the time the NBA is up and running again — late July seems to be the best guess following a training camp period — there will be that many more, all of which will provide information and a guideline for how to best go about this.
The far more interesting narrative for fans of the NBA is how the league chooses to restart 17 or 18 games shy of finishing its regular season. Does it jump right into the playoffs with the 16 teams that sat in a playoff position when the season was suspended back on March 11? Or does it try to finish off the season and then go into the playoff round? What about the teams already mathematically eliminated? Do they show up?
On Tuesday, Portland’s Damian Lillard told Yahoo Sports that he would not be a participant if his team had no real shot at a playoff spot.
The answer to those questions and any others about the format a resumed NBA season would take are unknown at his time.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who has had the lead on this from the get-go, says Silver is very much in the discussion phase right now hearing from owners and players and management alike as he tries to determine the safest, most fair approach possible.
Everything is on the line right now when it comes to the playoff format. The area getting the most discussion isn’t so much about when it begins or what format it takes but whether the traditional conference brackets would be adhered to.
There have already been leaks that the league, with every team in one location, would forego the conference setup and simply go to a 16-team bracket regardless of geographical location. It’s not as if travel would be an issue.
In this format the Raptors would wind up seeded No. 3 behind the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Toronto’s first round opponent would be the No. 14-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Win that round and the Raptors would move on to take on the winner of the Denver/Indy matchup and then most likely a matchup with the No. 2-seeded Lakers in the semifinal round assuming the Lakers weren’t knocked off earlier.
Waiting in the final would be one of the Bucks or Los Angeles Clippers and their lead dog Kawhi Leonard, assuming the tournament’s No. 1 and 4 seeds made it through unscathed.
It would certainly be a new look for the league. And based on a cursory look at social media, it has plenty of backing by the fan base.
But if you’re the Raptors and have fought for a No. 2 seed in the East, do you prefer that playoff route or the traditional conference one that would see them open up against the Brooklyn Nets followed by a series against the winner of Boston/Philadelphia before a likely rematch in the Eastern Conference Final against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks?
Wojnarowski was reporting Tuesday that there seemed to be a leaning towards limiting the number of playoff teams in Orlando to no more than the 16, which makes perfect sense if the ultimate goal remains the safety of the players. The fewer in the bubble, the fewer that are exposed.
But none of this will be decided until after Friday’s NBA Board of Governors call at the earliest. That meeting will be preceded by a meeting of the league GMs on Thursday. The expectation is that by Monday the full picture should be clearer. But right now how the league moves forward is anyone’s guess.
We just know that they will be moving forward with an attempt to conclude the 2019-2020 season.
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